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Oregon's frugal fun

By Kathleen McDade, Contributing writer
Published On: Jul 05 2011 03:15:47 AM CDT
Olympic National Park, Oregon beach

National Park Service

As part of the scenic Pacific Northwest, Oregon is well known for its outdoor adventure opportunities. Oregon adventures span a wide variety of locations, from the mountains to the coast, and from the Columbia River Gorge to the rivers and plains of eastern and central Oregon. Adventurers can enjoy hiking, skiing, kayaking, beachcombing and more. Best of all, many of these outdoor adventures are affordable, even for budget travelers.

Mount Hood Meadows Nordic Center
Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing is inexpensive and easy, even for inexperienced skiers. The Nordic Center has 15 kilometers of groomed track, and also offers equipment rentals and lessons. Visitors will need to pay a daily track fee, or purchase a season pass. The Nordic Center also offers a "Learn to Cross Country" package, which includes the daylong track fee, equipment rental and a 90-minute lesson. For those feeling more adventurous, cross-country skiing trails are available in more remote locations in the Mount Hood National Forest, too.

South Beach State Park
Located just south of Newport on Oregon's central coast, South Beach State Park offers many outdoor adventure opportunities, including fishing, crabbing, boating, windsurfing and beachcombing. Additionally, in the summer, South Beach State Park offers two-hour kayak tours for ages 6 and up. Kayak tours are $15 per person (subject to change), including equipment and lifejacket rental. Regular state park entrance fees apply, and camping is available. Visitors can also take advantage of nearby attractions such as the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The beautiful, forested Columbia River Gorge is a can't-miss Oregon attraction, and full of adventure. The gorge includes waterfalls, campgrounds, historical sites, and more than 100 miles of hiking trails, from short and easy day hikes to 30-mile backpacking loops. Hikers can climb to the top of, or behind, several of the waterfalls. Camping is available seasonally at Ainsworth and Viento State Parks, and at U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. Day use fees are not charged at many sites in the gorge, making this a super-affordable adventure destination.

Farewell Bend State Recreation Area
Visitors to Farewell Bend, located on the Oregon/Idaho border, can learn about the Oregon Trail through its interpretive displays and see actual Oregon Trail wagon ruts. Visitors can also enjoy fishing, water-skiing and boating on Brownlee Reservoir, and beach volleyball and basketball on land. State park day-use fees apply, and camping is available. In addition, visitors can explore the surrounding area, which includes the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City and jet boat tours on the Snake River.

Oregon Caves National Monument
The Oregon Caves are one of southern Oregon's most popular attractions. Visitors can take a 90-minute guided tour of these unique marble caves, plus hike through ancient forests and visit the historic Oregon Caves Chateau. There is no entrance fee for the monument, but there is a fee for guided cave tours. Campgrounds are located within a few miles, but not at the monument itself.